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Busch and Hamlin must mature to give Gibbs another title

By admin | January 9, 2010

By Richard Allen

Joe Gibbs Racing has three of the best young drivers in NASCAR. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano are as talented as any who have come into the sport of stock car racing in quite some time. Logano is only entering his second full season as a Sprint Cup driver so it is a bit early to consider the teenager a serious threat to win a championship. However, Busch and Hamlin have now reached the time in which they should not merely be considered potential contenders, they should be expected to be contenders.

But even though Busch and Hamlin have each made their marks over the past couple of seasons at the Sprint Cup level they have each fallen short in the end. It seems as though they have each made some crucial mistake at just the wrong time to remove themselves from contention for the ultimate prize.

Once again in 2010, both are thought to be among the early favorites. Many have speculated that if any team is step forward and challenge powerful Hendrick Motorsports it will be JGR. If that is to be the case, these two drivers will need to be at the top of their games from the start of the season all the way to the finish. There can be no lapses, no unnecessary miscues and no silly mistakes.

Busch has become somewhat well known for fits of temper and flashes of immaturity. Some of those misgivings can be made up for by the driver’s incredible talent, but some cannot. There have been instances in which he has been rumored to have blown engines on purpose when frustrated. And, there have been times when he has gotten into unnecessary on-track scrapes with other drivers that have damaged his own car. These are the types of point costing things that must be avoided if he is to contend for a championship.

In 2008, Busch looked to be the favorite as drivers entered the Chase for the Championship. He had won eight times up to that point and looked unstoppable. However, after a bad race early on things only seemed to get worse as he and his team appeared to press the issue. Then, frustration set in and he never recovered.

This year some think Busch’s ownership of a Camping World Truck Series team will serve as a maturing factor for him. That could well be. And strangely enough, it could be that a certain degree of immaturity might be one of the ingredients that makes this driver stand out. Sometimes not thinking so much can be a good thing.

Hamlin is thought by many to be a title favorite in 2010. As with Busch, talent is not the question here. But as with Busch, it may be a question of not making a critical mistake at just the wrong time.

Going into a season with many thinking of a particular driver as a serious threat to win the title is not an easy thing to deal with. Just ask Carl Edwards about his 2009 season after having a stellar 2008. Hamlin has always been thought of as a contender, but not necessarily a favorite. He will have to deal with a type of pressure the likes of which he may not have dealt with before. And pressure often causes mistakes.

Last year’s race in California was an example of making a mistake at just the wrong time for Hamlin. While leading he essentially spun himself and eliminated the #11 Toyota from the race. It was not necessarily a mistake caused by immaturity, just a lapse in judgment. To beat the likes of Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the HMS crowd these mistakes have to be eliminated, or at least minimized.

Every driver has lapses and every team makes mistakes but sometimes timing is everything. Jimmie Johnson crashed last year in Texas. But that occurred after he essentially had the title wrapped up.

This year, many look to Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to lead Joe Gibbs Racing to the front of the championship pack. They have the talent. There is no question about that. But do they have the focus, the maturity and the vision of the big picture to do it?

Joe Gibbs has won championships with Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte. Will either Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin deliver yet another? Only time will tell.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

10 Responses to “Busch and Hamlin must mature to give Gibbs another title”

  1. Chase Says:
    January 10th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Either way…Denny Hamlin has become so big headed that it’s unreal. He questioned why NASCAR was listening to drivers like Jeff Gordon instead of himself, because He (Denny Hamlin) has already been successful in the sport and is going to be around for a long time. That REALLY rubbed me the wrong way. Denny may feel that he is going to be around for a long time…but he has’nt done it yet. You earn having a voice like Jeff Gordon by sustaining a long career in the sport, not by planning on having a long career in the sport because you’ve been in it now for 4 years. Denny Hamlin needs to get over himself. For that, I hope that Denny Hamlin never ever wins a cup championship. Denny is a cry baby. Denny Hamlin is a SELF-proclaimed Legendary of the sport I think. As per the Denny v Brad deal. Denny wanted so badly to be the “hard ass” in that deal and in my opinion made himself look like a fool. Haha. Remember Denny made the initial bump at Phoenix or something like that, then, Brad got the best of Denny. Denny vowed to get Brad back at Homestead and could only manage to flat spot Brad’s tires. Brad is scrappy and Denny needs to stop messing with him.

    Denny Hamlin can kick rocks if you ask me…

  2. Mike O Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Seriously? Hamlin is awesome and will be the champ someday. Busch is a crybaby evil piece of dung which gets him nowhere. He can never be the champion.

  3. Gail Forrester Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 9:55 am

    I hope Kyle wins a Cup championship - but does it HIS way. Did you see the Arizona-Green Bay game yesterday? A “mature” Kyle Busch (playing the part of Aaron Rodgers) would have said, “it was a great points day for us.”

    Please, Kyle, don’t ever become that person! Win the championship the way they do it in REAL sports - by winning races.

  4. Gina Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Love your post, Chase! I second that emotion. You have to prove you can do it, not just say you want to do it.

    Shrub takes a lot of chances and has been able to have the control to get away with it, but his lack of mental toughness has been his undoing.

    I don’t root for either of these guys. They are both annoyingly arrogant.

  5. Derek Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    … Well Chase, its a good thing your opinion is like an *******, no matter how great you think it is because you love HMS its still an *******, and EVERYBODY has one. Think about that for a second before talking about how retarding Denny is, esp when you faulted yourself by bringing the biggest idiot in the garage into the mix, Mr. Kesolowski.

    Have fun rooting for the #88 and #12 this year :D

  6. Ken Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Busch and Hamlin are two of the biggest jerks in the Cup Series. They seem to think that the sun rises and sets on them; they’re in their twenties, and they talk down to everyone as though they are longtime veterans. I’d love to see Keselowski take out Hamlin every week. Then again, I don’t even watch most of the races anymore because NASCAR has become a pathetic joke.

  7. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    I think it’s pretty sad when a rookie (Logano) appears to be more mature than the vets on the Gibbs team. Nuff said right there.

  8. Gail Forrester Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Ken: It is Kyle’s world; he just lets you live in it. The kid knows how to drive and how to win. He even shows (sadly) signs of knowing how to points race, which he displayed in the Nationwide Series where he pouted all the way to the championship. Hamlin? Ehh. Does nothing for me - all talk and no follow-through. After JJ wins 10 consecutive championships, Kyle will still barely be 30. His time is coming - like it or not. And I will still enjoy watching him smash trophies in vicotry lane.

  9. Marybeth Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I see both Hamlin and Busch taking steps to maturity. It is a lifetime process. :)

  10. Chase Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Well…Derek. I believe I will have fun rooting for my 2 favorite drivers. I have been a fan of the intimidator since 95 when I was 10, and Dale Jr since he entered Busch. Mr. Brad keselowski is from my hometown, and he also drove the NAVY car, which employ’s me. Pretty perfect huh? Besides…Brad reminds me more of Big E than even Kyle B. It became apparent to me during duration of the ‘09 Nationwide season. He races hard, he’s not afraid to move a guy out of the way to either win a race or merely advance a position. Once Brad gets out of the car and he is asked about the on track incidents he sort of gives that mischievous grin, claims to have done nothing on purpose, and then says he’s over it. Even when you know he’s not. The sport is going to be good with that guy in it.